Undaunted: Normandy came out of nowhere in 2019 and was a hit enough to spawn a sequel and expansion. As you can guess from the title, this is another game in a very long list about fighting in Northern France during World War II. What made Undaunted different was the way it represented soldiers and officers with decks of cards that players could add to fine-tune their strategy during the game. It was so good that I put it on my list of best deck building games and best war board games.
With Undaunted: Stalingrad, the designers moved the action to the Eastern Front, but it’s more than just a reskin. An all-new game with a brand new dedicated campaign system.
what’s in the box
Undaunted: Stalingrad comes in a big, heavy box with a big, heavy price tag. There are his two giant stacks of cardboard tiles used to build the cityscapes that players battle over the course of the campaign. In fact, placing all the tiles in row and number order creates a rough map of the historic city. One set of tiles is for the starting situation of the map. The other is a replacement set of these tiles if the original tiles are destroyed or fortified as part of the action.
It’s a similar story for the deck of cards that make up the rest of the weight. One for German players and one for Soviet players. The starting decks are functionally identical. However, as play progresses, the deck takes permanent casualties and expands with new options. and represent important differences.
A few 10-sided dice and a sheet of punch-out counters representing various squads, vehicles, landscapes and battlefield markers round out the content. The somewhat cartoonish style used for cards and tiles throughout the Undaunted game is a bit familiar given the serious subject matter. But in this his fourth outing, artist Roland his McDonald strikes the needed balance between realism and caricature. It’s also nice to see the realistic diversity of the Soviet military, including women and different ethnic backgrounds.
rules and how to play
Deck building, where players start with a core of cards and use them to purchase additional cards during the game, is a well-worn design concept. However, in most deckbuilding games, deckbuilding is all about it. What sets Undaunted apart is the way the designer crafts the deck to represent aspects of morale and unit cohesion without the overhead of his additional rules. Of course, there’s a fair amount of luck involved in card his draw, which may or may not support what needs to be done on the board. But there are also plenty of strategies.
Players start with 4 cards each turn. Play one card and strain your nerves to decide who goes first, then play his remaining three cards in order. Most cards represent units on the battlefield, and players can perform actions such as moving or shooting with corresponding counters on the board. This is resolved with the d10 roll. A hit removes the corresponding card from the deck. Therefore, the more units are attacked, the less likely they are to draw a card, which makes them less likely to act and less reliable.
A non-commissioned officer card is also included in the deck. These do not activate units, but add cards to the deck or draw more cards from the deck. This corresponds to using words of encouragement, courageous leadership, and reinforcements to patch up ailing troops. But if you try to coordinate too many different units, you’ll find that you don’t see your key cards in the confusion, and the last type of card is his Fog of War, which just clogs your hand. They represent the uncertainty of the battlefield and are obtained by scouting new tiles that are prerequisites for movement.
Adding to the deck and performing actions on the board are means to achieve the objectives of the scenario. These are much more varied than previous Undaunted games, which were primarily races to control specific winning tiles. It’s still here, but complemented by desperately timed defense and desperate demolition, aided by a wider range of tiles with simple landscape rules. There are also scenarios with intelligence. This versatility means there are multiple ways to approach each battle, and the subtleties of strategy cannot be worked out until it’s too late. Must be changed.
It’s a system that forces endless and awkward compromises. For example, Rifleman is the only card that can control tiles. However, unless you have multiple matching cards, you cannot move and control them in the same turn. You should risk reducing range and making them easier targets. must be balanced against the need for This is a difficult series of tough trade-offs going on.
The scenario unfolds according to a branching structure depending on the winner of the previous battle. Each faction has a scenario book with setup and a brief narrative introduction to the next battle. From off-map assets like bombers to on-map tanks, new cards will be available in decks for many scenarios. Victory always gives you something. Perhaps it gives you control over part of the city or gives you an extra promotion. Depending on how things unfold, campaigns can end abruptly or escalate into a massive battle for final control of a city. Scenario losers, however, often get a slight starting advantage in setting up the next scenario, which helps keep things even.
As a result, Undaunted: Stalingrad invites you to think long-term. At the end of each battle, there are casualties depending on the number of cards lost. If these turn out to be front-line soldiers, they will be replaced with inferior reserve cards, while specialists such as snipers and engineers are permanently lost. Replace it with a better alternative. So it’s no longer the case to send troops in a gung-ho to secure an objective. Every decision is a compromise, taking a risk that allows you to win, but sabotages your deck for the rest of the campaign. This adds a brilliant frisson of danger to even simple choices, making concessions a strategic decision rather than a crackdown.
A card or tile swapping scheme means you pay for a lot of stuff in boxes that you don’t use. Ongoing campaigns are tricky. Because it tends to snowball when one side gains an advantage. Between the balance changes in the scenario setting and the usual vicious attrition both sides incur, this is unlikely to happen here. And the way the city and your army crumbles around you packs an increasingly powerful emotional punch as the campaign progresses. It’s easy to start over and more likely to see different scenarios.